Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced major changes to its signature (and maligned) immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities - promising to review pending immigration deportation cases based on newly-reinforced guidelines that prioritize deporting immigrants who commit violent crimes. The proposed changes provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents with guidance to consider factors such as whether an undocumented young person would be eligible for the federal DREAM Act; the severity of the misdemeanor or offense the undocumented individual allegedly committed; and whether or not the immigrant in question has close family members who are legal permanent residents or US citizens. State legislators and immigrant rights activists, who have long been calling for an end to the program, applauded the announcement while continuing to ask the program be dismantled and reiterating their support for comprehensive immigration reform from Washington.
As comprehensive immigration reform remained stalled in Washington, D.C. in the first half of 2011, common-sense state legislators across the nation took up the fight in their legislative sessions, defeating expensive and misguided enforcement bills that targeted undocumented immigrants and their families. Despite the deluge of SB 1070 copycat bills promised by anti-immigrant groups, attempts to mimic Arizona’s anti-immigrant law largely failed, as did a far-right effort to rewrite the U.S. Constitution by revoking citizenship for children born in the United States. Encouragingly, state legislative sessions saw a wide variety of innovative and common-sense proposals that sought to expand opportunity for all residents, both immigrant and native-born, through approaches emphasizing access to education, workforce development, and community policing.
In this week’s research roundup: reports by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examining specific protections states can adopt to limit adverse selection in the state health care exchanges, surveying proposed or enacted state exchange legislation from 2011 legislative sessions and analyzing how cuts in state budgets jeopardize the economic recovery, studies by the Center for American Progress noting how states are leading the charge in enacting tuition equity legislation and identifying the true costs of the controversial E-Verify immigratio
Proposals to increase educational access for students (particularly the undocumented) continue to advance in state legislatures nationwide, even as they are being upheld in the nation’s courts. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced and upheld California’s tuition equity law, the nation’s oldest and one of the strongest tuition equity models nationwide, by choosing not to consider a challenge to the law. California’s law, AB 540, passed a decade ago and was already unanimously upheld by the State’s Supreme Court last November.
From a non-stop assault on the rights of workers, immigrants, and women, to power grabs making it easier for corporations to influence the political process and harder for historically disenfranchised populations to vote, to balancing state budgets on the backs of children and the vulnerable by cutting schools and health care in order to give millionaires and CEOs even bigger tax cuts, the measures that grabbed headlines in the states this year have been almost uniformly bad news for the economic security of the vast majority of Americans. But dig just a little beneath the headlines, and some glimmers of hope are clearly visible.
PSN's Immigration Reform Policy Specialist, Suman Raghunathan, appeared on the Michael Eric Dyson Show on June 8, 2011 to discuss the recent advancement of state policies that grant in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students, and the reaction to the California Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear a challenge to California's tuition equity law.